29 September 2013

NFL Week 4: Fading the Jets and Other Degen Tales of Ordinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


Those damn Jets can't even lose properly. Yeah, they beat the Bills in a tough division match-up... but, so what? It was a home game that they were supposed to win. Credit Rex Ryan's covert defensive schemes. Rookie QB EJ Manuel had everything including the kitchen sink thrown at him last Sunday. The Jets disrupted Manuel's flow and they were able to steal a win against the Bills. We lost backing the Bills with points and the moneyline.

But now the Jets take on the upstart Tennessee Titans, who are 2-1 after Jake Locker's last second heroics last weekend. Locker should expect the EJ Manuel treatment by Rex and the Jets D. They will throw the kitchen sink at Locker, but in this instance, Locker seems better suited to handle the extra pressure. After all, even Bill Barnwell think we're witnessing the Rise of Jake Locker.
Fade the Jets (2-2 season):

Tennessee Titans -3.5
Yes, fade the Jets once again. Locker and the Titans win by a TD. It's the fourth weekend of the season and a quarter of the season is almost over, but expect an ugly low-scoring affair. The Titans are 3-0-1 ATS over their last four games. The UNDER is 4-0 in the last four Jets road games, while the UNDER is 9-4-1 in Tennessee's last 14 home games.

Cat Teams: Cincy -3.5... Sure, Cleveland rallied last week to beat a shity team. This is a division game that is always a bare-knuckle brawl. Cincy wants a division title... badly. They'll come to play. I expect AJ Green to light up Cleveland's secondary.

Leans: Balt -3... I'm on the Baltimore bandwagon. They covered a couple of times already for us, so we're looking to back Balt -3 again this week against Buffalo.

Notable Dogs: NE +2.5... You don't see Bellicheat and Brady as a dog very often. sure, Matty Ice cannot lose in  Atlanta, but there's rumblings of the return of Gronk!

27 September 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 5

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

Another weekly edition of the upset watch! Lots of conference play getting started. Are you ready for some big plays?


Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs." If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet. Keep your eye on these games:

South Carolina at Central Florida (+235). Steve Spurrier takes the Gamecocks to face a very healthy, undefeated Knights squad in Orlando. UCF has just come off an upset road win at Penn State. The better prepared team should win this one.

Arizona (+320) at Washington. A lot of noise has been made about the powerful Huskies offense. However, the Wildcats have one of the nation's best running backs in Ka’Deem Carey. Arizona hasn't played a top tier FBS opponent yet, but they haven't been challenged either. This could be an explosive, high scoring affair.

Colorado (+300) at Oregon State. Although the Beavers boast the nation's leading passer in Sean Mannion, this is a team that cannot close anyone out defensively. They also lost to an FCS opponent at home. One good special teams play by the Buffaloes could turn the game.

23 September 2013

Hockey Fights: Sabres vs. Leafs

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Love it when goalies throw down. It's only preseason too.

21 September 2013

NFL Week 3: Fading the Jets and Degen Tales of Ordinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

We faded the Jets during last week's shitshow against New England. We're now 2-1 fading the Jets this season after we successfully cashed the NE Pats -550 moneyline. Closer final score than we wanted, considering how much we had to lay, but the Pats' B-Team still defeated the lowly Jets in a futile display of ugliness.
Wisdom of the Ocelot: Thursday Night Football games are lackluster due to reduced prep time and recovery time, so betting UNDERS totally blind is not a bad proposition. 
Fans all over New England have been spoiled the last decade with superior squads, so they were not used to seeing Brady and the Pats struggle in a horrendous and abysmal game. A good friend (and diehard Pats fan) commented on how that was the worst Pats/Jets game he had ever seen. Even when the Jets are bottom feeders of the AFC East, divisional games against the Pats are always hyper-competitive football... except when they play on Thursday... like last week in Week 2 and last year's Thanksgiving horrid trainwreck that was highlighted by the butt fumble.
 
Sucks for Rex Ryan and company that the Jets couldn't steal a win in that road game. Geno Smith looked like a bumbling rookie with his multiple INTs and the Jets couldn't get much of a run game going. The Jets' "RB by committee" (Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory) combined for 1 TD and 144 yards in 2 games. Powell and Ivory both average 3.0 yards per carry, but they haven't broken any runs for 20+ yards.

The Pats' offense is decimated by injuries and highly vulnerable. They'll be a much better team the next time they meet the Jets, which is why Week 2's loss was a blown opportunity for the Jets to catch the Pats sleeping. Alas, the warm fuzzies are gone. No more undefeated team. The Jets even out at 1-1.

E.J. Manuel out for blood against the Jets
Week 3's match-up is a division game against the Buffalo Bills and their wunderkind QB EJ Manuel. After 2 games Manuel completed 68% of his passes with 3 TDs and only 1 INT. The kid pulled out a 24-23 come-from-behind win out of his arse against the Carolina Collapses.

We're backing Manuel and the Bills this week on the road in the Meadowlands. We were able to grab Buffalo +3 and Buffalo ML +130.
Fade the Jets Pick (2-1 season):
Buffalo ML +130
Buffalo +3
As of Midnight ET on Saturday, you can get Buffalo +2.5 pretty much everywhere in Las Vegas, but there's no consensus online. Depending on the offshore shop, you can find Buffalo +1 (Pinnacle and 5 Dimes), or Buffalo +2.5 (Sportsbook and The Greek), or even Buffalo +3 (Heritage and Bovada).

UPDATE: As of Noon ET on Sunday... looks like consensus in Vegas and online is Buffalo +2.5 (Pinnacle, 5 Dimes, Heritage, and The Greek) with Bovada offering the only +3 out there. Some of the smaller offshore shops still have Buffalo +1.

Notable Dogs - Week 3: Balt +2.5 and St. Louis +4.... Baltimore as a home dog? You betcha. Especially against Houston, who is 1-5 ATS in last 6 games and 0-4 ATS in last 4 road games. We jumped on Baltimore when it went to +2.5. After getting pounded, the line quickly readjusted to Balt  games), so St. Louis (6-1 ATS in last 7 road games) looks enticing, then again, I can't back the Rams, even +4. I'll pass on that one, but it's worth a look if you get a better number.

20 September 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 4

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

Welcome once again to the upset watch!  With lots of mismatches this week we'll spend a lot of time looking at the sidelines.


Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs."  If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet. Keep your eye on these games:

Louisiana Tech (+325) at Kansas.  Quite honestly, both of these teams are horrible.  Kansas just lost to Rice while Tech lost to Tulane.  The Jayhawks are -10 at home but I believe whichever team wants the win bad enough will take it.

Michigan State (+175) at Notre Dame.  The Irish defense got exposed again last week by a frisky Purdue offense.  The Spartans are coming off three straight cupcake victories and might have fresher legs for this one.  If they can hold ND under 30 they have a shot.

Utah State (+230) at USC.  The Trojans have a great run defense but they are about to face one of the best pistol offenses in the land.  Aggies QB Chuckie Keeton would be a heisman contender at a bigger school.  USC coach Lane Kiffin loves to go for 2 point conversion often.  Someday that's going to backfire on him.

18 September 2013

Tapping a Beer: The Battle to Stay Out of the Basement

By StB
Milwaukee, WI

It's been a shitty year for the Milwaukee Brewers. Injuries plagued them early. Poor pitching ensued as relievers forgot the long ball was a bad thing. Then the team's All Star and face gets booted from the league for the rest of the year.

It's hard to root for a team that has been on a roller coaster ride. Many fans bow out once football starts. Others -- known as season ticket holders -- trudge on until the very end.

But there is something for every fan of the Brewers to be watching right now. It isn't a grand victory to some but it matters to the people of Milwaukee.

Don't finish worse than the Cubs.


That is the focus as we head into the second half of September. This season was over at the All Star break. The only thing that got exciting was free beer at the stadium*. But with the team showing some promise for next year -- mainly from young starting pitchers -- the proud people of Milwaukee want to make sure we are better than the sCrUBS of Chicago.

With a 6-1 win on Monday night, followed by a 4-3 victory on Tuesday,  the Brewers are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs. Not finishing in the basement would be a modest win. And with a shortage of those in the official standings, it would be a big W to the faithful.

 * Well kinda. The Brewers had an August promotion where everyone received a $10 concession voucher with their ticket. That could be used for beer as well.

16 September 2013

Weekly Digest of a Certain Baseball Team: Superstitious Edition

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

I once wrote a blog post about how awesome Trevor Cahill was and how he was defying the BABIP people and the power of the sinker and he was just a young talented kid who was getting better.

At which point, he immediately went to shit.

So don't think for a second that I am going to mention who is leading the AL West and by what margin. Or certain players on a certain team who seem to have found their strokes just in time. Or what transpired over the weekend deep in the heart of Texas.

We can talk about how much Ryan Cook sucks right now, though. Just throw the ball, Ryan. Stop thinking.

I completely and totally understand your reaction. Why does this insignificant fan think he has the ability to alter universal gyrations and/or the whims of the Baseball Gods by writing positively about a baseball team, one you may have noticed I haven't even mentioned yet?

I don't. Not really.

You can't be too careful, though, amirite?

Like, were certain teams to advance to the post-season, I would not--theoretically--watch any of those games at my Mother's house, which I've been forced to do on two other occasions due to familial obligations and have found the team I support to be left wanting in those games, both Game 4s, where they were out-scored to the tune of 20-4 by other teams in major league baseball.

*

I don't just carry this feeling about my own team. I remember an acquaintance celebrating the Rangers World Series in win in 2001. He was popping virtual champagne all over his Facebook page with six outs to go in Game Six and I thought, "what a fucking idiot. You Do Not do that shit. Ever!" My own brother is guilty of this. In 2002, he rang up our Mom late in Game Six and said, "I can't believe the Giants are going to win the World Series!"

I mean....have you people never....I don't understand you.

So, until certain things happen--or don't--milestones which may or may not occur and may or may not set off dog piles and Bud Light showers, you won't hear anything from this quarter. Nothing. Not even a shot at a certain Southern California-based team in the AL West who spent a bunch of money to finish third. Again.

Nope. Not from me. Go team.

13 September 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 3

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

Welcome back to the upset watch! Are you ready to see Johnny Football do his thing against the Tide?


Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs."  If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet. Keep your eye on these games:

Virginia Tech at East Carolina (+250) - The Hokies played a respectable game against Alabama but still lost by 25.  Now they get to face an undefeated mid-major on the road.  The Pirates run an up tempo offense loaded with upperclassmen at all the skill positions.  If ECU can win the turnover battle I see this game going for the home team.

Georgia Tech at Duke (+270) - As much as I hate to say it, Duke is finally re-building its football program.  This game will come down to how the Blue Devil defense can handle the high flying GT offense.  I don't know how much of a home field advantage there is in Durham, but the Yellow Jackets haven't played an FBS opponent yet.  This is a tough spot to start the conference schedule.

Wisconsin (+190) at Arizona State  - This is a classic match-up of power versus speed.  The Badgers have averaged 390 yards rushing in their first two games.  They also lead the nation in scoring defense, albeit against cupcake opponents.  If Wisconsin can control the tempo on offense they should be tough to stop on any Saturday.

12 September 2013

NFL Week 2: Fading the Jets on ThNF and Other Tales of Ordinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The New York Jets are undefeated.

Let's pause for a a few seconds and savor this rare moment of grandeur.

...

Ya know, it doesn't get any better than this, riding the high of a opening season victory. The Jets 1-0? Yes, the Jets are 1-0.

The usual misery and malaise gets pushed back a week. Instead of 17 weeks of melancholy, we'll get 16. I'm still swimming in hope and optimism for another week. Well, not a full week. The Jets take on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football, so this unexpected glee is extended for 3.5 days before reality sets in.

The last time the Jets played on Thursday Night Football? Yes, the butt fumble.

image

Mark Sanchez might go on to great things after his stint in pro football. He could become a decent coach, or he could go back to school and become a doctor and cure cancer. Or he could save a hundred puppies from a burning building. Doesn't matter what his post-football accolades will be. When he dies, someone will play this clip of the infamous butt fumble.

Heck, even those stuffy British gatekeepers of the written word included "Butt Fumble" in the latest installment of the Oxford Dictionary. It's up there with "twerking" and "jorts."

Buffalo66 loves the OVER. I was leaning the UNDER only because what can a rookie QB really accomplish on a short week? Plus the Pats are dinged up. But Buf66 is convinced Billcheat will run up the score if he gets the chance.

The Pats have problems with double-digit spreads. They almost always win those games outright, but the Pats are 11-15 in home games they are a favorite between 10.5 and 14 points. We're staying away from the points outright, but we like the Pats moneyline even at -550. Sure it's a lot to lay, but sometimes it takes money to make money.
Fade the Jets Pick:
NE Pats -550
We went 1-1 last week. Break even. The Jets won as a home dog, but the UNDER hit.

10 September 2013

Beautiful Disaster

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

It is a feeling unique to football (soccer). The desire not simply to win, but to win with style, to play el jogo bonito, the beautiful game. This is not a trait that has often been ascribed to the United States Men's National Team, which, for much of the last 20 years has relied on its will, athleticism and a defensive style to grind out results.

Until last week's forgettable performance in Costa Rica (much more on that later), the Nats had won 12 games on the trot, a remarkable streak. Though some have criticized the competition in that stretch as weak--which is in some circumstances debatable--that is beside the point. The wins showcased a new flair for the game, a pressing, attacking style under Coach Jurgen Klinsmann that produced excitement, skill and, most importantly, goals.


It hasn't been all wine and roses under Klinsmann. There were predictable growing pains as a generation of players schooled in the art of ten men behind the ball were asked to push higher up the pitch and harry the opposition. Movement, interchanging--keys to modern football--were tentative. New players were brought in, others shuffled to new positions, sometimes by design, sometimes out of necessity. There was a lack of intuition and familiarity, with the tactics and with each other. A Sporting News article early this year threw this confusion into harsh public light with anonymous players complaining about a lack of understanding in the locker room and on the pitch.

Just as suddenly, it came together. Starting with a surprise 4-3 win over the German B team (perhaps B-, but still German), the Nats started playing a comprehensive offensive game. Movement off the ball, clever combination play and some world class finishing produced fantastic football. Combined with the noted American can-do spirit, the U.S. grabbed nine of nine possible points in World Cup qualifiers to move to the top of the Hexagonal. The B team (perhaps B+) stormed through the Gold Cup, scoring 26 goals in six games against teams determined to park the bus, showing how effective this new philosophy was in breaking down defense-first tactics. It was an avalanche of red, white and blue.

This, not the competition, not the watered down Gold Cup championship, is what stirred the imagination of the U.S. soccer fan. Just as years of frustration with static play had us holding our breath as we repelled attack after attack, waiting for a counter that would edge the Nats to a 1-0 win (Just get the result!), the fluid play made us stand up straight and proclaim that the U.S. was now a force, one that could play in any type of game and be successful. In Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley, we have players with skill who can influence a match with one stroke of genius or simply take it over entirely, much like Altidore did in the second half of win #12 in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It was this brashness that caused me to proclaim on Twitter that the U.S. was going to "whip the Ticos' ass" in San Jose last Friday night.

*

As we all know, that did not happen. A disastrous start to the game (which actually began before the first whistle when Bradley injured himself in the warmup), forced the U.S. to chase the game from the 9th minute on. Giving up two goals in the first ten minutes is pretty much death on the road in CONCACAF. Yet, there were those fresh memories of four-goal outbursts that kept U.S. fans in a hopeful mood. And when Dempsey (barely) converted a PK just before half to cut the deficit in half, a comeback (something of a U.S. specialty in recent years) seemed in the offing.

Though the Nats controlled play for much of the first twenty minutes of the second half and Dempsey hit the post, they were undone by a blind (lucky) clearance, some bad positioning from Matt Besler and some tentative goalkeeping from Tim Howard (it won't be long when I write the definitive "Bench Howard for Guzan" piece, which will generate howls of protest from almost every quarter, but, I assure you, it's time).

But these were not the real problems with the match. The real problem is Klinsmann's insistence on a) the 4-2-3-1 formation, which we won't really get into in this piece since I assume you want to finish reading it before Thanksgiving, but the players seem hesitant and  and not entirely sure where they're supposed to be at all times in this formation and b) the players he plugs into the Starting XI (which we ARE going to get into, because every time I see a U.S. lineup I hate it). Yes, I've talked at length about how this renaissance, how the New U.S. Footballing Style, is down to his leadership. Yet, his lineup decisions remain curious. The fascination with Jermaine Jones is the biggest.

Jones is no longer the "Hard Man," the destroyer he once was. He's decent positionally, now that he and Bradley have developed an understanding in the middle of the park, but he's become a major liability with the ball. He turned the ball over 22 times against the Ticos, 17 of those came in the first 36 minutes, when the Nats really needed a calming presence to slow down the game. It was his terrible first touch that led to a giveaway that led to the first goal. To be more precise, it led to the chance that led to the corner kick that produced the goal and boy, oh boy has the U.S. defending on dead balls been horrible for 18 months now. Time and time again, Jones gave the ball away, sometimes while under minimal pressure. With Bradley in there, his sins don't seem quite so large, because the Bradley has turned into a fantastic player. He'll never be a Number Ten, a string-puller in midfield, but his positional awareness and reading of the game makes him the perfect field general. He knows when to go and when to stay, so when Jones goes off the reservation, Bradley is there to clean up his mess more often than not.

Bradley's injury in warmup was a shock to the US system and while I'd take Geoff Cameron over Jones in a heartbeat (and every heartbeat after that one), he seemed both mentally unprepared for the task and had little understanding with Jones on this night. After the first goal, what the U.S. needed was a calm head, some composure to slow the game down and repel the Costa Rican momentum. What actually happened was the opposite. They became more harried, trying to play one-touch in crowded space and continually giving the ball away. The second goal was far too easy and far too predictable.

*

Aside from the Jones catastrophe, the U.S. has real issues at the outside back positions. Demarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco got the nod on Friday and both were overrun early (though Orosco got exactly zero help from the midfielder on his side, Graham Zusi). Now, I understand that the options at these two positions are limited. Klinsmann apparently doesn't rate Cameron as a right back, though he plays there for Stoke. I'm assuming that has to do with Cameron's unease going forward, but Friday night was a perfect time to use him there, as a stay-at-home defender on the road against the dangerous strike tandem of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. On the left, Beasley's only competition would seem to be Fabian Johnson, but Johnson was at the left midfield spot, where he has been terrific. Klinsmann is loathe to drop him into the backline and I agree with that. However, at this point in time, with Beasley the only other option, I think we have to sacrifice what Johnson gives us in the midfield for the upgrade at left back.

We're still not done. Perhaps the worst decision was to play Dempsey up top as the target man and Landon Donovan in the hole beneath him as the playmaker. Landon Donovan is not a playmaker. He never has been and this was starkly in evidence as he played negative pass after negative pass right to the feet of Ticos. Further, Dempsey is much more effective in that underneath role than he is up top. I'd have started Aron Johannsson, with Dempsey underneath and Donovan either out on the right (for Zusi) or on the bench.

And I certainly would have never put Eddie Johnson into the game. Or Jozy Altidore, for that matter. I understand the desperation and I may be operating from hindsight here due to Jozy picking up a stupid yellow that rules him out of tonight's crucial Mexico match, but if he wasn't healthy enough to start, risking him when you have (roughly) equally appealing options (Johannsson) was a gamble I'm not willing to take.

*

The loss is not debilitating. the U.S. remains firmly on track for Brazil 2014 with 13 points, second in the Hex behind Costa Rica's 14. Honduras, fresh of a surprising win in the Azteca is third with 11, followed by the free-falling Mexicans with 8.  With Mexico in Columbus tonight, the U.S. can qualify (or put themselves on the very brink) with a win. Easier said than done.

Mexico fired it's coach after the Honduras loss and the new guy has nothing to lose. He's going to throw on the most offensive lineup Mexico can muster against what will be a makeshift back four/central midfield. Besler, Altidore and Cameron are all out with yellow card accumulation. Bradley is iffy with the ankle. So the centerbacks will be regular starter Omar Gonzalez and (ohmygod I get sick just thinking about it) Clarence Goodson (recently called in for this one) or Orozco. (There was a paragraph here, which I deleted, because it seemed bitchy and overwrought, so let me boil it down to a single sentence: Besler's yellow card was an abomination and the referees--and cheating dickbag Joel Campbell--should be disciplined for it.)

Sadly, Jones didn't get a yellow so he'll be there in the midfield. Klinsmann can go a number of ways, but I think it's safe to say he's thinking defense first, so it'll be Kyle Beckerman, who is a useful player and a decent distributor, but is woefully short of pace. Klinsmann could surprise us all, however, and plug in Mix Diskerud or Joe Corona, which would give the Nats something going forward.

The front four is probably going to be the same group and, as I've said, it's a mistake. I'm crossing my fingers for a Johannsson sighting and Donovan somewhere away from the middle where he can find space and exploit Mexico with his speed.

It's the most important game of the Hex. Mexico in Columbus. I'd like to to be beautiful, we'd all like it to be beautiful, Klinsmann most of all. I hope the performances in San Jose changed his mind about some players. The way he has brought guys in and created depth is admirable. It's time to use some of it.

This being Mexico, though, grinding out a result would be beautiful enough.

09 September 2013

Bronx Bums: 9/9 Report - Boston Massacre'd; Yet Still (Barely) Alive

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I didn't watch Sunday's game. Yeah, I admit it. I'm a bad Yankees' fan.

Can you blame me? After dropping three straight heartbreaking, nut-busting losses to the Red Sox, I made peace with the baseball gods and embraced the changing of the sports. Goodbye baseball. Hello football.

I was in full-blown NFL mania and sweating 14 different fantasy leagues and various pools and monitoring wagers and line moves. Most of Sunday afternoon, I was basking in the (rare) warm glow of a New York Jets victory. I totally forgot about the Yankees until my brother sent me a text: "Mo blew another save." I assumed the worst and had fleeting thoughts filled with cliches like, "Put a fork in them... they're done.... those Bronx Bums" or "The fat lady is singing... loudly." After losing their third straight game to Boston on Saturday, I figured that was the Red Sox hammering the last nails into the Yanks' postseason coffin.

Yanks' postseason hopes stayin' alive on a wild pitch

But then something happened... the Yanks stole a win. On a wild pitch of all plays. Mo got bailed out again. The Yanks stopped the bleeding and ended their losing streak. They ended this mismatched series against Boston on a positive note. What should have been their funeral was nothing more than a tough sweat because Tampa Rays were ensconced in their own nightmarish roadtrip. The Yanks ended the Boston series the same way they began it... three games behind Tampa for the second wild card spot.

Tampa went 3-7 on their West Coast swing and they're stuck in a crappy 4-11 stretch over their last 15 games. With a series against the Red Sox looming this week, the Yanks are in a prime spot to pick up a few games.

The Yanks bullpen struggled to hold leads. Losing David Robertson for a week to a bum shoulder (tendinitis) could not have come at a worse time. Mo Rivera looks more human-like than ever before. He blew two saves against the Sox, including a disappointing moment on Thursday night when Mo was one strike away from putting the Sox away, but they rallied to tie the game and then win in extra innings.

The Yanks' bats were alive this series and produced 25 runs in the first three games, but the pitching was atrocious, particularly the bullpen. I saw a stat on Twitter that for the first time in the history of baseball... a team scored 8 runs three games in a row and lost all three. The last time the Yanks allowed nine runs or more in three consecutive games was in the high altitude of Denver when the Yanks got pummeled by the Colorado Rockies back in 2002.

CoolStandings.com puts the Yankees postseason hopes at 10%. That's much better than I thought. I have them around 5%. CoolStandings also has Tampa at almost 49% to win the last wild card spot, while Baltimore has a 13.6% chance. So Tampa is a coinflip, while the Yanks are a 1 in 10 shot.

You have three AL East teams (Tampa, Baltimore, and the Yanks) jockeying for position for the second and last wild card spot, with two AL Central teams (Cleveland and the Kansas City Royals, who are still mathematically eligible). The A's (83-60) are currently ahead in the AL West, which means Texas (81-61) has the first wild card slot. Even if those two continue to flip-flop, whomever finished second in the AL West will most likely have the first wild card spot and whomever finishes second in the AL East will secure the second wild card, unless Cleveland (29% chance according to CoolStandings.com) can make a late run and steal the last spot away from Tampa-Balt-Yanks.

The MLB suits adding a second wild card was a wise choice because it makes all of these September divisional games worth something. Rest assured, I won't punk out like I did on Sunday and dismiss the Yanks. Those Bronx Bums still have a fighting chance. Whether it is 5% or 10% doesn't matter. They have to take each game as a single-elimination playoff battle. No more mistakes. No more mental errors. No more fat pitches (I'm looking at you Mo!).
WILD CARD STANDINGS - AL
TEXAS  81-61 (.570)  --
TAMPA 78-64 (.549)  --
***********************************
CLEVELAND 76-66 (.535) 2 GB  
BALTIMORE 76-66 (.535) 2 GB    
NY YANKEES 76-67 (.531) 2.5 GB
KANSAS CITY 75-68 (.524) 3.5 GB

On Deck: Do or die for the Yankees (76-67) this week. The Yanks (32-36 in away games) hit the road for 10 games. No days off this week. They take on Baltimore (76-66) for a four-game series then head up to Fenway for a three-game weekend series against the Sox, before they fly north of the border for a three-game stint against the Blue Jays. With seven games against Baltimore and Boston this week, the Yanks have a chance to pull ahead of Baltimore in this AL East-centric wild card race and pick up much-needed games against Tampa, who has a difficult three-game homestand with Boston, but then Tampa finally catches a breather with a series against the lowly Minnesota Twins.

08 September 2013

NFL Week 1 - Picks, Sweats, and Other Tales of Ordinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


I woke up at 5:55am PT. I've been waiting for this day since the Super Bowl ended.

My friends joked that it must be football season, otherwise what the hell was I doing up so early on a Sunday? I am ready for some football!

This is the last time I can be happy as a Jets fan. It's all downhill from here. The next 17 weeks will be utterly miserable. That's what happens when you're a Jets fan. The season is torture. I will try to write a weekly report about what it feels like to be a Jets fan, but I don't think anyone wants to read it. Too emo. Too many suicidal thoughts. Too dark and depressing. But the truth hurts. It's painful. That's what it's really like to be a Jets fan. Pain. Misery. Melancholy. Being a Jets fan is like being the special needs kid who rides the short bus to school.... everyone picks on you.... and you're the laughing stock of all of sports fandom.

And can you blame the bullies? Our QB's greatest moment last year was a butt-fumble. We deserved to be ridiculed.

I'm a diehard Jets fan. I suspect my mother smoked too many cigarettes when she was pregnant (hey it was the 70s), or I was dropped too many times as a child. My father could have raised my brother and I to be NY Giants fans, but he decided that we should be allowed to choose our own destiny. We picked Gang Green and our lives have been horrendous ever since.

Peyton Manning threw 7 touchdowns on Thursday. In one game. And he didn't even break a sweat. Last season, the mighty Sanchize tossed 13 TDs... over the entire season. Peyton generated more than 50% of the offensive output of Mark Sanchize in one fucking game. This is why Jets fans are perpetually suicidal. Sanchize is a third-stringer at best, but Rex Ryan is blind. Or Sanchize has hundreds of hours of Rex foot fetish videos that he's using as blackmail.

There's a glimmer of hope. With an injured Mark Sanchize, the gloomy congregation of diehard fans can watch their highly-touted rookie QB Geno Smith. We're also keeping an eye on the Buffalo Bills score. The Jets could have snagged EJ Manuel, but opted for Geno Smith instead even though everyone was afraid to touch Geno after his draft stock plummeted. Geno is another huge risk that the Jets took, but when you're QB options are limited to Mark Sanchize and Phil Simms' offspring, then you have to welcome anyone else. Anyone.

Welcome to the madhouse, Geno Smith. I hope you have lots of alka seltzer and anti-anxiety pharmies like Valium and Xannax. Heck, I can only watch a Jets game if I'm loaded up on Valium, otherwise I would put my fists through the wall. It's going to be a long fucking season, Geno. Whatever you do, don't pull a Ryan Leaf and go apeshit crazy on a reporter while cameras are rolling.

The Cigarette Smoking Man Hates Mark Sanchize

The tin foil hat conspiracy guys think that Rex Ryan inserted Mark Sanchize into the lineup late in the Snoopy Bowl for the sole purpose that Sanchize would get injured by an opposing player (who was on the take). After the game in random dark parking garage somewhere in the bowels of the Meadowlands, the Giants' Marvin Austin was handed a fat envelope of cash from the Cigarette Smoking Man (from the X-Files) for assisting Rex Ryan and team owner Woody Johnson eliminate the "Sanchez problem." As a result, Sanchez's bum shoulder is keeping him on the sidelines for the opener against Tampa Bay. Geno Smith got the nod. This is the hope and change that Obama has been talking about the last five years.

With that said... when the lines originally opened, we decided it would be in everyone's best interest to fade the Jets and their rookie QB until they proved competence.
Fade the Jets Pick:
Tampa -2.5
UNDER 41
The line in Vegas is currently Jets +3.5 and the O/U slipped to 40 or 39.5 in some spots. I heard the wiseguys made a play on the Jets. They love to fade the public, but this is one instance when the public knows the truth... the Jets are a shitty team in flux, they traded away Revis -- their top defender (who takes the field against them today), and the Jets have a rookie QB at the helm. Perfect time to fade the Jets and the UNDER.

I guess I should take that Valium now so it kicks in by the time Geno Smith goes three and out in his first offensive series.

05 September 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 2

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

Who's ready for week 2 of college football?



Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs."  If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet.  Keep your eye on these games:

Bowling Green at Kent State (+250).  The Falcons are getting a lot of love from odds makers after putting a spanking on Tulsa.  Meanwhile, Kent State squeaked by Liberty.  However, if the Golden Flashes have a healthy Dri Archer at RB Saturday, then this game will be a lot closer than most people think.  Last season Archer led the nation with 9.0 yards per carry.

Western Kentucky (+400) at Tennessee. Bobby Petrino's Hilltoppers impressed with a 35-26 win over Kentucky.  Now they must travel to Knoxville and take on the Volunteers.  Tennessee is running an offense similar to Oregon.  However, their defense still hasn't been tested.  If WKU can get some early points and a few stops, the wheels may come off the Vols wagon.

Colorado State (+310) at Tulsa.  Both of these team are coming off of disappointing losses.  Neither team seemed prepared defensively.  But it was Tulsa who also struggled on the offensive side, only putting up 7 points.  Even though they are at home, the Hurricanes could lose to a hungrier Rams squad.

03 September 2013

NFL Roundtable: 2013 NFC Win Totals

Image courtesy of Mark Runyon (Pro Football Schedules)

It's time for another Round Table discussion. The topic is NFC season win totals. Your panelists include...  JoeSpeaker, Derek, Pauly, StB, and Buffalo66.

ICYMI, we already posted our AFC Win Totals.


NFC Win Totals (Odds courtesy of LVH)...

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: 11.5 (u -175)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - Tough. As difficult as it is to envision Colin Kaepernick struggling, based on his (slight) body of unbelievable work, this is the NFL, where everybody struggles. The Michael Crabtree injury hurts, the defensive secondary is suspect and the NFC West is shaping up to be bloody.

StB: OVER - This may be the toughest pick this year. They were a force last year. Can Kaepernick do it again? I don't see anything that says he can't. Unless a LB takes his head off. I am looking forward to what might be two awesome battles with the Seattle Seahawks.

Derek: UNDER - Colin Kaepernick will struggle slightly in his first full season, but the Niners will still be a championship contender. Don't see them winning more than 11 games.

Pauly: UNDER - They added bomb-threat Boldin, but opponents will finally figure out how to defend Kaepernick. The Niners' D is not as impenetrable as the last two seasons. If anyone exploits the Niners secondary, then they're toast. Harabugh is on a mission and will lead the Niners to at least the Final Four, but with a 11-5 record.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: 10.5 (o -120)

JoeSpeaker: OVER - Gosh, I hate these guys. And I hate that they're good, too. If the officials called holding on LT Russell Okung, the Seahawks would never gain a yard. He literally holds every play. In that case, I'd go under. But I think they're good for 11 wins, so over. Russell Wilson is no joke and the entire squad is riddled with amphetamine addicts (allegedly). You ever try subduing a tweeker?

StB: OVER - Their non-conference schedule looks easy. Last year they surprised everyone, but no one will be shocked this year. Again, I look forward to Week 2. Also happy to see the NFL hasn't screwed up the schedule by having the second game in October or early November.

Derek: UNDER – They smell like a 10 win team to me even with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks won't be surprising anyone this year.

Pauly: UNDER - These are no longer the Seachickens. They'll unleash the Beast. They have Russell Wilson. They acquired Percy Harvin. They have a top-notch D. Sure, a few guys are banged up and addicted to Adderall, but it's impossible to beat the Seahawaks in their own gym. Wisdom of the Ocelot: Bet the Seahawks at home, but fade them on the road. Hopefully they'll detox in time to  post a 10-6 season. Playoff-bound but are they a Final Four team?


ATLANTA FALCONS: 10 (u -165)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - I'm going out on a limb and picking an upset under here for the Falcons, who, it seems to me, were very lucky last year (there are probably some statistics available to prove or disprove this hypothesis, but I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants and make proclamations based simply on "feel," much like everybody who works at ESPN).

StB: OVER - Forget Tony Romo. You know who cannot win the big game? Matt Ryan! Sure, he can blaze through the season but when it comes to winning the game they absolutely need, he lays an egg. But the division doesn't hold much competition so the over should be easy.

Derek: OVER – I know a lot of people (see below) think this team is overrated but I like the over. Matty Ice, Julio Jones, Roddy White? Nuff said.

Pauly: UNDER - The Falcons were the most overrated team in the NFL last year. Even with a weak schedule, they barely beat a bunch of inferior teams they shoulda blown out. This season, they have a brutal schedule and plagued with a shaky defense. The Falcons added RB Steven Jackson (8-straight 1,000-yd rushing seasons with the Rams), who is finally on a decent team. Even with Matty Ice at the helm, they'll struggle to post a 9-7 season.


GREEN BAY PACKERS: 10 (o -165)

StB: OVER - Let's start with one of the most annoying comments you will hear numerous times over the next couple of weeks: "Aaron Rodgers means this team already has won about 4 games." I hate it when analysts makes such statements about a team. Have the Bears or Vikings gotten any better? I don't think so. The Lions? Please! GB may have a surprise running game this year with Lacey coming on board. Take the over. Easy money unless the QB gets hurt.

Derek: OVER – Unless Aaron Rodgers gets hurt, this team will kill the over. You can "discount double check" that to the bank.

Pauly: OVER - The Tin Foil Hat crowd thinks GB gets special favors from the zebras. After all, they were the least penalized team in the NFL. I chalk that stat up to sheer discipline from a well-coached franchise that has 47 wins over the last 4 seasons. Green Bay is healthier across the board (on both sides of the ball) and Dom Capers' D will be better prepared to stop the read-option after getting embarrassed in the playoffs by SF last year. Ask Aaron Rodgers and he'll tell you that 11-5 is doable. 12-4 might seem like a stretch, but it is possible if they steal a couple of divisional road wins.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: 9 (o -165)

JoeSpeaker: OVER - Oh when the Saints....this is a potential Super Bowl team. There, I said it. Chips on shoulders? Check. Balls the size of rottweilers? I have no idea. Why'd you ask me that?

StB: UNDER - Payton is back!!! So how does he cheat this year? I'll take the under. Too many years of these guy blowing things up. Defenses will have caught up.

Derek: OVER - Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Rob Ryan. Yep, the Saints will slaughter the over.

Pauly: PUSH - Head honcho Sean Payton is back from his penance. Rob Ryan is rebuilding their Swiss Cheese defense. And Drew Brees is Drew Brees. He's a machine. He put points on the board in 2012, but the Saints' defense was atrocious. Expect the offense to be stellar with a healthier Jimmy Graham and a deep WR corp. The D can only get better. If it weren't for their tough schedule (redonkulous road schedule), the Saints would have 10 wins within their grasp. It'll be a hard-fought 9-7 season for the Saints with a Wild Card berth, but I wouldn't want to play them in the first round of playoffs. I'm leaning OVER, but I'm staying away... for now.


N.Y. GIANTS: 9 (o -110)

StB: OVER - The Giants always seem to do really well after a poor season.

Derek: OVER – This might be the Giants last chance to win the Super Bowl with the current core players that are on their roster. They have a lot of players in their free agent walk year. Feast or famine seems to be their track record. This could be a feast year for Eli & Company with the Super Bowl being held in the Giants home stadium.

Pauly: UNDER - Tale of Two Halves. Tom Coughlin runs out of gas in November and December. Like clockwork. The Giants should have had 10+ wins the last two seasons, but the G-Men faltered down the stretch. The Giants do not have a cake walk to ended the season and the start of the schedule is no pinic either. Eli Manning will put up his numbers and Victor Cruz will certainly benefit with a healthy Hakeem Nicks. A postseason berth hinges upon the defense. Will JPP be effective post-surgery? Will Justin Tuck return to the sack monster he once was? The D will be tested early. If they cannot shut down Romo and contain Peyton and Cam Newton, then the Giants could potentially start 0-3 (@ DAL, DEN, @ CAR). Anticipating a disappointing 8-8 season.


DALLAS COWBOYS: 8.5 (u -145)

StB: OVER - Roger Staubach says the 'Boys can go 10-6 easily. Other Dallas writers -- notorious for making a living bashing this team -- think they may be the best team in the East. As a lifelong fan, I want to say over, but I am not as enthused as the Dodger. They can win 9 games, maybe more if the offensive line turns out better than expected.

Derek: OVER – The Cowboys suck but they're still good for 9 wins this season. Romo is due for some good luck and they do have Dez Bryant.

Pauly: UNDER - All that Botox that Jerry Jones has been shooting into his forehead has been leaking into his frontal lobe. Dallas' drafts have been a joke the last few seasons, which is part of the reason they were 16-16 in the last two seasons. Jones fired D-coordinator Rob Ryan in favor of... wait for it... Lane Kiffin's old man... who at 73 is ancient and I'm pretty sure he wore a leather helmet (sans facemask) when he played in college. Jones handed over the play calling duties to controversial Bill Callahan, who may or may not have took a dive when he was coaching the Raiders in Super Bowl 37. Yeah, it'll be another Tony Romo shitshow. The Cowboys will be lucky to go 8-8 and if they're not careful it could easily be a 6-10. By the way, I'm forming a new punk band called Jerry and the Botox Explosion.


CHICAGO BEARS: 8.5 (o -135)

StB: OVER - The Bears are a good team, but not anywhere close to being great. With Urlacher gone, Jay Cutler is the face of the team. Wait...maybe I should go under? No, I stick with the over because they do well against AFC teams at the Flying Saucer that is Soldiers Field.

Derek: UNDER - The Bears fired Lovie Smith and replaced him with a CFL coach? Cutler will implode at some point this season so I expect a below .500 season for the Bears.

Pauly: UNDER - Lovie Smith couldn't get emo Jay Cutler to effectively run the offense, maybe someone north of the border from the Canadian Football League can? It's one of those outside the box moves that makes the Bears' management look like geniuses... only if it works, eh? In 2012, the Bears had a ferocious D that wilted late in the season. Makes me wonder if they gave up on Lovie and Cutler? The Bears' special teams, led by speed demon Devin Hester, is top notch, but their fledgling offense (even with Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte) is the cause of heartburn for every Bears' fan in the Midwest. DA Bears live and die by Jay Cutler once again with an 8-8 season.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS: 8 (o -140)

StB: UNDER - Another team that surprised everyone last year. This year, teams know who Morris is and what RGIII will do. New York and Dallas won't take them lightly. Plus, I think both Defensive Coordinators will find a way to stop the offense.

Derek: OVER – If RG3 stays healthy and plays all 16 games, than the Skins will beat the over. If he hurts that knee again and they don’t make the playoffs, is it too soon to put Shannahan on the hot seat?

Pauly: OVER - RG3 or Not RG3? The Team Doctor (who lives in the mysterious Red Shed that he shares with Dick Cheney's ketamine dealer) suggested RG3 sit out until after the bye week. Dr. Shannahan diagnosed him was ready to play. RG3 is no D-Rose. He wants in. ASAP. If RG3's kneecap doesn't explode, then they'll win 9 or 10 games. If RG3 goes down for the count, then it'll be up to Alfred Morris to carry the team, and it's Xanax-Whiskey time inside the Beltway.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS: 7.5 (u -155)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - Never trust a QB who's name is a verb. Under!

StB: UNDER - I heard they had Jeff George in training camp to "help" Ponder. Nuff said.

Derek: UNDER – Even Adrian Peterson can't help this team in 2013.

Pauly: UNDER - No one can stop the AP Express.... except history... because typically a RB with a "sick season" will post inferior results during the ensuing season. Even if AP bucks the trend, Christian Ponder can't throw the deep ball.  The Vikes replaced #1 down-field threat Percy Harvin with an aging Greg Jennings and a young speedster Cordarelle Patterson. The Vikes have a solid front seven, but the secondary is suspect. If it gets ugly, then it'll be a frigid 5-11 season. At best, the Vikes post a 7-9 record.


CAROLINA PANTHERS: 7.5 (o -130)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - I don't know anything about this team. That must mean they're players are crap.

StB: UNDER - Does Cam Newton lift this team up? No. I'll take the under on the Pussycats.

Derek: UNDER – It seems that even Cam Newton can’t save this franchise.

Pauly: OVER - Carolina choked in more games than I can count. Wisdom of the Ocelot: In 2012... we bet on Carolina in the first half, but faded them in the second half. Carolina can win 8 or 9 games, so long as they let Cam Newton be Cam Newton and run more pistol plays instead of forcing him into conventional offensive sets. Then again, management did not sign a big-time WR in the offseason to help Cam. The defense is underrated and anchored by Luke Kuechly. If he played in a bigger TV market, we'd hear a lot more about him. With a solid defense and young offense getting better every game, I like Carolina's chances for a 9-7 season.


DETROIT LIONS: 7.5 (o -150)

JoeSpeaker: OVER - What's the line on games suspended? I want the over on that one, too.

StB: UNDER - Am I the only one that wants to throw up every time some dope like Matt Millen says Matt Stafford is a great QB? That sidearm throw is disgusting and he isn't that accurate. He tends to pile on garbage yards against crap teams.

Derek: OVER – The Lions will shock the world and kill the over. Yep, you heard it here first. Ndamukong Suh and Megatron are going to lead this team to the playoffs... and a first round exit.

Pauly: UNDER - Los Lions are still in the middle of an 8-game losing streak. Sad to see another supserstar (first Barry Sanders, and now Megatron) get stuck in playing on a crappy team for the Dystopia Lions. QB Matt Stafford had a decent year, but aside from Megatron, he lacks reliable targets. The only thing to root for? That Scandi kicker nicknamed Kickalicious makes the team. The trick shot wunderkind can kick footballs into a speeding Volvo! If he gets cut, I wouldn't be surprised if the Jets pick him up.


TAMPA BUCS: 7.5 (o -140)

StB: UNDER - What can I say nice about the Bucs? They aren't the worst pirate team in the league. That being said, I'll take the under.

Derek: OVER – Darelle Revis and Doug Martin. That's enough reason for me to watch this team play. I expect them to win at least 8 games this season.

Pauly: OVER - If you could pass, you could beat Tampa. That was last year's game plan. This year they added Dashon Goldson and Darelle Revis, so now teams will think twice. If QB Josh Freeman can cut down on the INTs and Doug Martin can stay healthy and grind out a 1600-yard season, then the Bucs will be in good shape to go .500 or slightly better.


ST. LOUIS RAMS: 7.5 (u -115)

Buffalo66: OVER - This offense really started to gel at the end of last year. Jeff Fisher knows how to build winners. They play SF and Seattle twice but should get to 8 wins.

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - The NFC West is too tough. The Rams will not get a win and a draw against the Niners this year.

StB: UNDER - This may be one of the most boring teams in the league.

Derek: UNDER – Jeff Fisher will eventually turn this franchise around but the only reason to watch Rams games this year is to see how many times the announcers or studio analysts bring up the fact that James Laurinaitis is the son of wrestling legend Road Warrior Animal. Maybe Tavon Austin will make things exciting for St. Louis?

Pauly: UNDER - I liked betting the Rams last year because they were "not as bad as the public thought." Well, I've reversing my opinion this year; the Rams are not as good as the public thinks. They're inexperienced and prone to mistakes, especially penalties (worst in the NFL last season).  Sam Bradford lost his #1 RB (Steven Jackson) and #1 WR (Danny Amendola). They drafted speedster Tavon Austin. Will he be the next big thing, or the next big bust? It won't be pretty with a 6-10 season.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: 7 (o -135)

JoeSpeaker: OVER. Sign me up for the Chip Kelly Bandwagon. I would like to be a Platinum Member.

StB: UNDER - Where did the Eagles improve themselves this year? At head coach? Michael Vick looked like he didn't want to play last year and he has been named the starting QB. I don't see much happening here.

Derek: OVER – This team is going to surprise a lot of people. Everyone in Philly will have Chip Kelly fever.

Pauly: OVER - JoeSpeaker referred me to the Chip Bandwagon Fan Club and we both got free t-shirts (florescent key-lime green, OBV!). Chip Kelly had a great run as coach of the Nike Ducks in the NFL minor leagues, and now he takes over after the Andy Reid Empire imploded. It's up to Chip and Michael Vick to restore the faith in Philadelphia. Chip likes to run, which should allow LeSean McCoy to thrive and have a chance at redemption. The Eagles have enough weapons on offense to pick up 8 wins.


ARIZONA CARDINALS: 5.5 (o -120)

Buffalo66: OVER - Carson Palmer seems to be making a difference for this offense. Although they play in the toughest division, 6 wins should be a realistic outcome.

StB: UNDER - This is way too tough of a division for this team. Worse yet, their fans are probably getting excited from the preseason victories thinking they have a chance to be really good this year. Any time a team's fan gets arrested -- for handing their 15 year old son a beer to hold while the father takes a picture -- cannot win many games in my book.

Derek: UNDER – Poor Larry Fitzgerald. Another wasted season for the talented WR. They should just trade the guy for picks already.

Pauly: UNDER - Bruce Arians is getting his first head-coaching job when most coaches are winding down their careers. Carson Palmer is your future? Looks bleak to me, especially in the brutal NFC West. Palmer will never take the Cardinals to the Promised Land, even if he had three Larry Fitzgeralds to throw to. Arizona is the doormat of the NFC and should barely get 4 or 5 wins.

***

FYI... Click here for the roundtable on AFC Win Totals.

02 September 2013

NFL Roundtable: 2013 AFC Win Totals


It's time for another Round Table discussion. The topic is NFL season win totals. Your panelists include...  JoeSpeaker, Derek, Pauly, StB, and Buffalo66.


Win Totals courtesy of LVH...

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: 11.5 (u -210)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - No Welkah, no Hah-nahn-dahz (I'm sure that's not phonetically correct, but fun to write and say!), hard to count on "Sick Note" Gronkowski. I foresee a lot of receivers making incorrect reads and getting a Tommy Brady tongue-lashing.

Derek: UNDER - Welker and Hernandez are gone and Gronk is recovering from another surgery, but the Pats will still win the AFC East. Even with the drama of Tebow-mania and Hernandez's arrest for murder, the Pats are in good shape and won't be challenged for the division crown. Only a Tom Brady injury can derail their season. They'll win 11 games at most.

Pauly: UNDER - The Pats clinch the AFC East, but fall short of 11.5. Bellicheat/Brady can pull off another double digit win season, but it'll be tough to win 12 with their schedule. Sucks that you'll have to lay -210 though.


DENVER BRONCOS: 11.5 (u -115)

StB: UNDER - Von Miller is out and the schedule is pretty rough right out of the gate. Sure Peyton Manning can perform miracles but can he get over that choke in last year's playoffs?

Derek: UNDER – John Elway loses Elvis Dumervil because of a fax machine debacle than the inability to re-sign the guy. Von Miller gets suspended for failing a drug test. Again. Even Peyton Manning can't will this team to more than 11 wins.

Pauly: UNDER - Peyton Manning's neck exceeded expectations last year, but this year we'll see a slight defensive regression. The Broncos will finish up 11-5 and end up in the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning has multiple deadly targets with the WR-trio (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker) and TE-duo (Tamme/Dreessen). Their biggest weakness on offense? Peyton's neck struggling to hold off those EBTKSB (Everything But The Kitchen Sink Blitzes).


HOUSTON TEXANS: 10 (o -120)

StB: OVER - But it won't be easy. Sure Indy will be better but they get Jacksonville and Tennessee twice but rest of the schedule will be painful.

Derek: OVER – I only like the over if Arian Foster is healthy and plays at least 14 games.

Pauly: PUSH - Can JJ Watt have a better season that last year? Will Matt Schaub fizzle out down the stretch? Does Arian Foster have another career year, or will this be the start of his decline? Will any other WRs step up and take some of the pressure off Andre Johnson? Houston won't win 12 games like last season, but they should lock up at least 10 wins... so long as Foster stays healthy (he has a nagging back injury) The Texans will be tested early on: Week 3 @ Baltimore, Week 4 vs. Seattle, and Week 5 @ San Francisco.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS: 9 (o -150)

Buffalo66: UNDER - This team has a huge question mark at RB and Big Ben isn't getting any younger. They will struggle against Baltimore and Cincy.

StB: UNDER - Because experts likes to say that the fans think the Steelers are dead and done with... but they never are. Well, yes, they are. I think they come in third place at 7-9.

Derek: OVER – Never count out the Steelers. I see them squeaking their way to 10 wins.

Pauly: UNDER - The AFC North is smashmouth football and a war of attrition. Who is Banged-Up Ben Roethlisberger's main target with Mike Wallace gone and Heath Miller dinged up? The Steel Curtain D is a year older and a half-step slower. The Steelers' running game was horrible last year. They were hoping Rookie Le'von Bell would become the Steelers' next workhorse... until he got hurt. Redman/Dwyer (both suffering from fumblitis) were not impressive, so the Steelers traded for Felix Jones. Yeah, it's going to be a long 8-8 season.


CINCY BENGALS: 8.5 (o -140)

StB: OVER - Ah, Iggy and his Bungals. Maybe one of the best teams you could care less about. Cincy fans go into shock when they make the playoffs. Again.

Derek: OVER – The Bengals have a good team even though you should never trust a redhead. They're not Super Bowl ready. but they'll beat the over easily especially with their defense, AJ Green and Andy Dalton.

Pauly: OVER - These are not Iggy's Bungles anymore, but a formidable playoff contender. Four of Ciny's first five games come against excellent opponents. Cincy could easily start 1-4. However, second half of schedule is a breeze. Cincy's defense is stingy. AJ Green is a lethal weapon and they're trying out a two TE set. Fear Andy Dalton. Everyone knows Gingers have no soul because they are the devil's offspring. A 9-7 record and division title is within reach.


BALTIMORE RAVENS: 8.5 (o -120)

JoeSpeaker: OVER - Fuck these guys. They should have been out in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they just created a new offensive style (Flacco flings the ball high in the air, Boldin out-muscles/jumps eight defenders to catch it) and somehow won the Super Bowl. 8.5 doesn't seem a difficult number.

StB: UNDER - Who takes the under on the Super Bowl champs? I do! Unlike the Giants, the Ravens underperform after overachieving. Plus, didn't they lose half of their defense to the senior circuit?

Derek: UNDER – Joe Flacco is overrated. Yeah, that's right. The Super Bowl champs stumble to 8-8 in their first season post Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Haloti Ngata is a beast though. So is Elvis Dumervil.

Pauly: UNDER - The Super Bowl champs got hot at the right time in the playoffs, but unfortunately they shot their load. The Ravens' D in the post-Ray Lewis era is in flux. Their offense still has Flacco and RB tandem of Ray Rice/Bernie Pierce, yet they lost their main aerial weapon when Boldin bolted to SF. Ravens finish 8-8 and don't make the playoffs after losing a heartbreaker to Cincy in Week 17.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: 8.5 (o -110)

JoeSpeaker: UNDER - Andrew Luck had tons of it last year (this I'm pretty sure of; I think Bill Barnwell mentioned it a million times) so I'll take the under/falling back to earth. Unless Pagano's cancer comes back.

StB: OVER - Andrew Luck is the real deal. I think the will be fun to watch.

Derek: OVER – I like the over but barely. I see the Colts winning 9 games. If "Heath Ledger is the new Matt Damon" than Andrew Luck is the new Peyton Manning. I expect Luck's career to last longer than Ledger's. Yes, I went there. Is it still too soon for Heath Ledger jokes?

Pauly: OVER - Fluke 2012. The Colts were inspired by Chuck Pagano battle with Leukemia, but rookie Andrew Luck played out of his tits. In the offseason, the Colts wisely invested heavily in protecting Luck by drafting premier O-lineman and acquiring Ahmad Bradshaw -- a minor headcase, but a helluva blocker -- to the backfield. Can the Colts execute their hybrid 3-4 defense this season? This is the same scheme that let Mark Sanchez and the Jets torch them 35-9 in Week 6. The Colts got luck of the draw and play a weak schedule. The AFC South is a joke, so 9-7 seems about right.


MIAMI DOLPHINS: 7.5 (o -145)

StB: OVER - The Dolphins may be one of those sleeper teams people talk about, along with the Chiefs. I think they will surprise some people this year and squeak out an 8-8 record.

Derek: UNDER – I smell another 7-9 season. Where's Dan Marino and Ray Finkel when you need them? Say hello to Captain Winky and Mr. Knish!

Pauly: UNDER - The Fish went 7-9 in 3 out of the last 4 seasons. Another one is coming. Mike Wallace is a nifty addition, so long as the QB Ryan Tannehill gets the ball to him, which won't be an easy task considering Miami's O-line is a disgusting mess. Their zone defense was problematic last year (too many holes), so who knows if the new additions on D can learn Kevin Coyle's system before they face Andrew Luck, Matty Ice, Drew Brees, and Joey Flacco in four consecutive games starting Week 2.


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: 7.5 (o -110)

StB: UNDER - Rivers always manages to derail this team. The under is a safe bet.

Derek: UNDER - Rivers sucked last year. This franchise missed their window when LT left the team.

Pauly: UNDER - Rivers had a terrible season and it didn't help that his O-line was as porous as the U.S./Mexico border. Norv Turner got the pink slip. New head coach Mike McCoy tweaked the passing scheme this season (one-back set with an emphasis on stretching out the D with quick passes), which should benefit Rivers and cover up for their liabilities -- unreliable O-line and lackluster running game. Rivers has solid targets like WR Malcolm Floyd and TE Antonio Gates. Does Gates have one standout season left in the tank? Or will the Chargers be haunted by the Ghost of Gates? The Chargers' D will be their downfall in a 6-10 nightmarish season featuring multiple Rivers' meltdowns.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: 7 (o -135)

StB: UNDER - I have already heard too many comments about how the Chiefs are THE sleeper team this year. I won't buy it until I see it with my own eyes. UNDER all the way.

Derek: OVER - Andy Reid will work his magic. He's got some help in Alex Smith, Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Expect this team to be in a surprising hunt for a playoff spot.

Pauly: UNDER - If Andy Reid is your savior, you might want to take up a new religion. Like Hare Krishna or something in which you shave your head and wear flowing robes. Alex Smith is a huge step up from Matt Cassell/Mighty Quinn goofball platoon. Smith will protect the ball for the CHEFS, who served up the worst turnover differential in the league last year. KC had decent weapons in Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, plus a few standouts on defense like Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs won't be a pushover like the last two seasons, but they'll struggle to finish 6-10.


NEW YORK J-E-T-S: 6.5 (u -145)

StB: OVER - Let's go over. Just for shits and giggles.

Derek: OVER – Am I the only one that still likes Rex Ryan? Let's go Jets!!!

Pauly: UNDER - Every coach and suit got fired...except Rex Ryan. They traded Revis, but kept Mark Sanchez. They let Tebow walk, but they drafted Geno Smith (after his draft stock plummeted). This  is Sanchize's last chance as a starter. If he doesn't turn it around ASAP, he's dunzo and relegated to third-string status for the rest of his career in Arizona (where all washed-up USC QBs end up and carry the clipboard for a couple years before they're put out to pasture). West Coast offense guru Marty Mornhinweig is tasked with mentoring Sanchize and Geno Smith. With Sanchez nursing a bad shoulder, rookie Geno Smith guides the Jets to a 5-11 season.


BUFFALO BILLS: 6.5 (u -135)

Buffalo66: OVER - New coach Doug Marrone makes this team 3 wins better. Assuming they stay healthy at QB & WR I would expect 7-8 wins. Could compete for the division if something happens to Brady.

StB: OVER - Call me crazy but I like the over. The Bills did enough to be competitive this year and challenge some teams, squeaking out a victory or two that no one expected. Like one against the Patriots.

Derek: OVER – I like the EJ Manuel pick. I think the Bills win at least 7 games this year.

Pauly: UNDER - I keep looking at the Bills schedule and think they'll beat the Jets twice, but where will the other wins come from? They tapped a new coach, Doug Marrone (from down the road at Syracuse), and drafted EJ Manuel at QB. But they have decent crop of young WRs and also have CJ Spiller, who is a fantasy stud this season according to many pundits. They hired Mikey Pettine (ex-Jets' D coordinator), but they're thin on effective troops. Expect another cold winter of discontent in Buffalo with a 5-11 record.


TENNESSEE TITANS: 6.5 (o -110)

StB: UNDER - A team you like to see on your schedule. I think Chris Johnson is overworked and Locker blows.

Derek: UNDER – Jeff Fisher got out at the right time.

Pauly: UNDER - Every year that has to be one team that is the doormat of the league. My vote goes to the Titans. It'll be a torturous season with an anemic 3-13 or 4-12 record. They gifted Shonne Greene a fat contract, who couldn't hold his mud with the Jets, so I feel bad for Titans fans who got fleeced for millions. Sheer robbery! Maybe Delaine Walker will help out on offense, but unless their secondary miraculously turn into Pro Bowlers overnight, the Titans are toast.


CLEVELAND BROWNS: 6 (o -150)

StB: UNDER - Taking the Browns to go to the Super Bowl! Oh wait, I thought we were talking bowel movements for a second. Under. Flush it!

Derek: UNDER – I feel bad for their fans. There's been way too many changes with leadership over the last few years. No continuity and a bad roster.

Pauly: OVER - The Browns drafted the coolest name in football -- Barkevious Mingo -- which sounds less like a linebacker like a character from a Tom Robbins novel. Maybe Norv Turner can get the best out of  Brandon Weedon and Josh Gordon? The Browns can eek out a 7-9 season if they catch a couple of division foes sleepwalking. I'm bearish on Baltimore and Pittsburgh, so maybe the Browns can steal a couple of wins?


OAKLAND RAIDERS: 5.5 (u -125)

Buffalo66: UNDER - They have the worst offensive line in the league. If they get to 6 wins it will be solely on the foot of Sebastian Janikowski (pun intended).

JoeSpeaker: OVER - I love what's happening in Oakland. It's a renaissance. It's a reversion. It's a return to glory! Eventually. This year is the first step.

Derek: UNDER – I got nothing. And so do the Raiders.

StB: OVER - The Raiders are not the worst team in the AFC West anymore.

Pauly: OVER - GM Reggie McKenzie got rid of the deadweight and took a huge cap hit for the season. Now he's pulling a Billy Beane and trying field a competitive team with a shoestring budget. The Raiders even took a flier on Matt Flynn, who lost his starting job to Russell Wilson last year. Behold... the Mighty Flynn... who is a definite upgrade compared to Carson Palmer. Lets' gamble here... the Raiders will exceed their low-rate expectations with 6-10 season.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: 5 (o -120)

StB: UNDER - They still have a football team in Jacksonville?

Derek: UNDER – Worst team in the NFL is right. I can't name a player on this team besides MJD.

Pauly: UNDER - They Jags suck, but they'll play a little better defense than people expect. They'll double last year's win output, but that will only give them 4 wins. They start the season with 4 road games in 5 weeks and a "home game" in London against the Niners. The smartest thing the Jags did in the offseason? The avoided trading for Tim Tebow and they added Seattle's D-coordinator, Gus Bradley, to the coaching staff.

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Stay tuned for the NFC Win Totals.